The WhatCounts Blog
Everything you need to know about smart, personalized email marketing.
We’ve said many times that your email address list is your most valuable marketing asset, because it (along with your website) is the one marketing channel that you completely and truly own. Just as you wouldn’t build a house on land that wasn’t yours, to use a time-tested analogy, we’ve said for a long time that it would be foolish to put all your eggs in the social basket. Your 20,000 fans on Facebook and 30,000 followers on Twitter are great to an extent, but those accounts could be turned off at any moment for any reason … or things even more nefarious could be afoot. Things like, oh … not being able to reach those fans without writing a check to Facebook?
If you use Pages on Facebook to promote your company, then listen up. In an effort to make users News Feeds squeaky clean, Facebook is shooting down any organic posts from company pages asking for likes, shares and comments.
In an announcement on its blog on April 10, Facebook specified this and other coming changes. In addition to the social media site like-baiting posts, it’s also going to target re-circulated content to show it less in the news feed. Additionally, it’s honing in on what it calls spammy links.
What does this mean for marketers using Facebook?
1. After Facebook changed the News Feed algorithm to show less company page posts, all marketers had left was growing engagement organically. There’s no better way to do this than by simply asking your followers and fans to like, share, and comment on posts. The more of these actions, the better placement in the news feed.
Now that Facebook is getting more aggressive on links, marketers cannot make this ask on their pages. This leaves barely any options besides paid advertising. Companies who don’t have a budget for social media are left between a rock and a hard place.
2. Marketers use social media sites such as Facebook to promote contests, events, and other content. It’s not unusual to promote each event several times on Facebook. However, with Facebook targeting re-circulated content, this becomes a no-no for marketers. Post the same content more than once, and Facebook kicks you off the news feed. The only solution is to create new content for the same event every time you want to promote it on Facebook. Marketers will have to measure whether or not they have that kind of time on their hands.
3. No one likes a liar, so Facebook’s decision to go after spammy links is decidedly beneficial. However, the social media site’s definition of “spammy” often includes legitimate content that hasn’t received likes, shares or comments. But remember, you can’t ask for those likes, shares or comments, either.
The changes Facebook is making are frustrating for marketers who have worked hard to gain a presence there. We all knew that the free ride on the social media train was going to end at some point or another, but with organic Facebook Page reach having fallen as low as 1 – 2 percent according to some studies, that ride has ended far more quickly and abruptly than anyone probably expected. Marketers will have to spend a lot more money and time now to make their Facebook pages effective. Many will have to decide if it’s worth it.
Hopefully, wherever you are, Spring has sprung. The month of May is right around the corner, and before it gets here, you need to plan your email campaigns for the month. There are some big holidays in May email marketers need to take advantage of and start planning. Here are the top four observances you need to add to your editorial calendar in May:
May Day (May 1)
I won’t get into how this observance got started and the many ways to celebrate it – you can read about that in this Mental Floss article. For most of us today, May Day is a celebration of everything spring. This opens up a whole lot of doors for you as an email marketer no matter what your industry. Get creative and celebrate the sun coming out and warming things up with an email campaign.
Cinco De Mayo (May 5)
Literally “fifth of May” in Spanish, this holiday is actually celebrated in America more than anywhere else. Officially, it commemorates the freedom established out West during the first years of the Civil War. Now it’s more a celebration of all things Mexican. Throw on your party hats and give subscribers an email campaign worth having a fiesta over.
Mother’s Day (May 11)
Plan for this holiday way ahead of time – not only what you’re giving your own mother, but what you’re giving subscribers. We can’t help you with the former, but if you’re looking for email campaign inspiration, check out this list. Mother’s Day is a must-do for email marketers, so start dreaming up creative email content now.
Memorial Day (May 26)
The last Monday of May rolls around every year, and we all take a day to remember the men and women who have died while serving in all of the U.S. military branches. Since it’s a national holiday and many people don’t go in to work, many people take the time to grille out, have picnics, and enjoy the outdoors. Send email campaigns with both the meaning of the holidays and probable subscriber behavior in mind.
These are only four observances celebrated in May. There are so many others, such as National Nurses Day (May 5), National Teacher Day (May 6), and Armed Forces Day (May 17). If appropriate for your business, take advantage of lesser known holidays to impact your particular swath of customers.
It’s doesn’t just help the earth: You can reduce, reuse, recycle in email marketing, too. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you create and send a message. Instead, use these three ideas to save time and energy with your email marketing.
1. Reduce the effort you put into creating and sending emails with automation.
Sending subscribers personalized emails they’re going to engage with often means sending behavior-based campaigns. A simple example is when someone signs up for your emails, you send them a thank-you message with a discount. Sounds time-consuming, doesn’t it? You can reduce the time you’ll have to put into sending these messages by using automation, or automatic behavioral triggers. Set up your message, set up the behavioral campaign, and let it run. If you’re not sure how to set this up, ask us!
2. Reuse an existing email layout, but fill it with new content.
Do you constantly feel like you are redesigning email layouts for different campaigns? Since your emails should reflect your branding no matter with which campaign they’re associated, reuse an existing email layout and fill it with new content. In fact, with one of our mix n’ match templates, you can reuse several different layouts for your email campaigns.
3. Recycle by using existing copy to create a new message with content curation.
You create new content on a daily basis – whether it’s an email message, a blog post, website copy or some other form of content. Reuse what you’ve created with content curation. Gather five or six pieces of your already-published content and create something new. The content should cover the same topic, and it’s important to add a summarization of the curation. That’s all there is to it: You’ve recycled existing content into something new.
There are lots of other ways you can reduce, reuse, and recycle in email marketing. Perhaps you have some tips and tricks of your own. We’d love to hear about them! Just tell us in the comments below, or use our handle @WhatCounts to tweet them to us.
Hope you had a wonderful Easter weekend full of chocolate and fun times! Now it’s back to work. What better way to start Monday than with the goods on email, web and social from last week? We’ve scoured the web for news and helpful articles that fall under these categories. We found seven we couldn’t resist sharing with you. Click them, read them (or listen in one case), and pass them along to others who might find them helpful as well.
Gmail does scan all emails, new Google terms clarify (The Guardian)
Turn on Your Heartbleed (Marketing Over Coffee Podcast)
That’s a lot of reading. Have any favorite articles from above or an opinion about one of them? Almost everyone does, and we’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below or by tagging us on Twitter. Can’t wait to hear from you!
There’s no doubt people who are authorities in their subject areas gain a lot of respect, not to mention business. So how do you become a known authority or expert within your industry? It’s not going to be an overnight phenomenon for anyone, but by leveraging the knowledge and input of your team, over time you can establish your organization as an authority in your field.
Use social media
Start by encouraging all your team members to participate in sharing your company’s content on social media. The more team members who do this, the wider your organization’s influence will spread. This tactic can be especially effective on sites such as LinkedIn, where there may be multiple groups for your industry. Having team members peruse these groups on a daily basis and contribute to discussions when necessary presents your company voice in an authoritative way. This not only gives you a little more breathing room since you won’t be solely responsible for posting to all those groups, but it also gives your resident experts a chance to shine.
Additionally, encourage team members to share your content, events, contests and other goings-on with friends on social media sites. When an organization’s own employees believe enough in what they’re doing to share it, other people will, too.
You don’t have to be the source of all knowledge. Members of your team are experts in various aspects of your industry, and you can leverage their know-how in your content. Interviewing colleagues not only produces content, but allows team members to share in-depth knowledge. The more people you can interview, the more your organization as a whole becomes an authority on your industry.
These interviews should be a part of content on your website, blog, emails and social media. The more places you share, the better leverage you’ll gain as an expert.
Use these tactics to build the authority of your organization over time. Don’t expect fast results; however, stick with it and you’ll see more and more engagement and growing ROI as people trust you as an expert in your industry.
Best practices are necessary for keeping any successful industry performing at its best. But with technology constantly moving forward, some of these best practices have become outdated. How do you know which best practices are still relevant today and which ones can be labeled urban legends? We’ve put together some of our resources that address which one is which and what you should do about it.
Some digital marketers are still under the impression there is a perfect time to send their emails. At this time, they believe their messages will get the most opens, clicks and engagement. However, every industry and every business within that industry is different. Each digital marketer will have his or her own flavor of subscribers, and the ideal time to send depends on those subscribers. Perfect time to send an email? Urban legend.
Asking a question such as, “What is the best time to send email” completely misses the powerful changes in subscriber behavior your individual marketing program reflects. The time and day you send your email will vary how people read it, which in turn will change their behaviors for what they do after they read your email. One perfect send time and day may be an urban legend, but using metrics to find the ideal send time for your own email marketing should be a best practice.
You may find this as a shock, but industry average reports don’t mean anything. Every company within an industry is different. Each email program and subscribers within it has its own particular nuances and needs. Comparing yourself to industry averages provides a skewed look at how a giant swath of your industry is doing. Industry averages are an urban legend. Measuring yourself against yourself year-over-year follows best practices.
When marketers first started using email, and for a long time after, sending one message to an entire list was best practices. In the last few years, though, segmenting users by geographic, psychographic, and other information has become the only sure way to engage with subscribers. Batching and blasting emails is an urban legend; it doesn’t work. Using segmentations and behavioral triggers to send highly personalized emails is now best practices.
Know any other digital marketing urban legends needing de-mystifying? Share them in the comments below or tag us on Twitter: @WhatCounts.
An important piece of legislation will go into affect on July 1, 2014 that will impact many email marketers. The Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) is updating some of its provisions, and it’s vital you understand how to comply with coming changes. One of the main tenets of the update requires gaining affirmative consent to send any email to a subscriber. This means you can’t send any messaging without the subscriber first opting in. This consent falls into two categories according to Canadian legislation:
- The subscriber opted in through a compliant opt-in form to receive marketing messages from your organization.
- This consent never expires unless revoked by subscriber.
- The subscriber has an existing business or non-business relationship with your organization.
- This consent expires after two years, but you can seek express consent during this time.
In reference to implied consent, an example of a business relationship would be someone who has made a purchase from you. An example of a non-business relationship might be someone making a donation to you or volunteers if you’re a non-profit.
It’s important to keep records of express and implied consent for subscribers. According to CASL, in the event a subscriber complains, the sender (you) is required to provide proof of consent.
Let’s dive into the specifics of express consent.
Express consent must be obtained via a CASL-compliant opt-in form. Wondering if your current form works or if you’ll have to create a new one? Here’s the goods on what the Canadian law requires you to include:
An affirmative action taken by the subscriber to sign up.
- Entering an email address and clicking submit.
- Checking a box requesting emails and clicking submit/continue. Note: A pre-checked box is not an affirmative action.
Clear indication the user is requesting – and knows he or she will receive – commercial email from you.
A statement saying the user can unsubscribe at any time.
The identity of the organization sending the email.
At least one piece of contact information.
- Physical address (Yes, a P.O. Box works!)
- Website address
- Email address
The last part of consent requirements we’re going to cover is message content. As with CAN-SPAM, CASL also requires certain elements be included in the body of any Commercial Email Message (CEM). These include:
Clear identification of the sender (you).
- Identify all involved parties if sending on behalf of a third party, unless any party had no part in determining the target list or content.
A working method to contact the sender.
- Ditch the “No-reply” from address; it doesn’t comply with CASL.
- A physical mailing address can be used.
- A functional, regularly-monitored email address works best.
A working unsubscribe method.
- Must be functional for at least 60 days after the message is sent.
- Must not incur any costs, e.g. subscribers charged when replying.
- Can be either an electronic address (email) or a hyperlink.
- Sender must process requests without delay (10-day maximum).
That covers the consent requirements for CASL. To make it easier for you to comply, we’ve converted the information from this blog post into a downloadable checklist. This resource also includes additional information including knowing if CASL affects you, the violations and penalties, and an in-depth Q&A. Get it for free now!
For many people, yesterday was a day to reflect on and be proactive about activities and education for better health. World Health Day was established to help us recognize public health problems in our communities, and do something about them.
Health is important for email marketing, too. Underperforming campaigns, disengaged subscribers, poor deliverability – all of these contribute to a sickly email program.
You can ignore the symptoms, which will only make the problems worse. Your disengaged subscribers will get so tired of your un-personalized campaigns, they’ll unsubscribe, or worse, mark your emails as spam. Because of this, your poor deliverability issues will escalate until ISPs block you. You won’t be able to send emails anymore. Nothing good can come of disregarding a serious illness, and the same goes for unhealthy email marketing.
There’s good news, though!
Instead of ignoring the symptoms of an unhealthy email program, recognize change needs to happen. Own the problems leading your email marketing in the wrong direction and make plans to reverse the outcomes. What does this mean? Personalize your email campaigns using segmentation. Send timely messages to subscribers based on actions they’ve taken. This will drive engagement.
Make sure your unsubscribe link stands out, so people avoid the spam button. Clean anyone off your list who hasn’t clicked into your emails in a long time. These people are only making you look worse to ISPs. Taking these steps will lead to improved deliverability.
If you’re not sure whether or not you have a healthy email program, don’t worry. The symptoms of a sickly email program will show themselves. Your job is not to ignore them once they’re obvious. Maybe you’re not sure how to implement the solution to your problem, or you’re not even sure what the solution is.
When you’re feeling a little lost on the prognosis, we can step in and help. Our blog posts cover topics ranging from best practices and strategies, to practical step-by-step tutorials. You can also reach out to us at any time. We love email, and always want it to be performing at its best.
Is Google taking over the world? Should I be marketing for March Madness? How do I put together a stellar email newsletter? All these questions and more answered in today’s blog post covering digital marketing news from expert resources.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since Google launched Gmail. Learn everything you ever wanted to know about how it went from a brainchild to the most successful email service available: How Gmail Happened: The Inside Story of Its Launch 10 Years Ago (Time Magazine)
Guest posts on your blog may not be such a good thing after all. The latest Google update penalizes guest blogging, drops some travel websites’ rankings (Tnooz). This doesn’t just affect travel marketers, but anyone who thinks about hosting a guest blogger on his or her site.
In the last of our Google updates for this blog post, we’re excited to tell you Gmail to Undergo Facelift With Snooze Button, Email Pinning And Extra Tabs (International Business Times). These updates may just save you a little time when cruising the inbox.
You can’t get away from it: March Madness is here, and marketers are taking advantage of peoples’ love for it. In March Madness Marketing Frenzy: 5 Ways Brands are Getting in the Game (Shoutlet), see how different brands are using March Madness-inspired campaigns to collect subscription information from users.
We can’t resist sharing this article from WhatCounts alum Chris Penn: How I Make My Newsletter Every Week (Awaken Your Superhero). Not only does Penn give great advice about deciding on content, he shows how he uses our Publicaster platform to send it on its way.
Read a great digital marketing article in the last few weeks? Share it in the comments below, or tweet it to our handle: @WhatCounts.
Getting rid of inactive, unengaged subscribers – we know it’s painful. It hurts to see your list numbers go down. It’s like cleaning out your closet or your garage or some other room that’s full of way too much stuff. It’s not fun, but you need to do it. Getting rid of the items you hardly ever, or more likely, never see is a good thing. You’ll be able to more easily access the items that are important to you.
And just like cleaning out an overstuffed closet, getting rid of unengaged subscribers on your list on a regular basis means you can skip the once-a-year, time-consuming spring cleaning. Sending messages to a list of engaged subscribers not only feels good, it’s good for your email marketing deliverability, too.
Today’s ISPs are focused on engagement as the key to the inbox. This means they’re looking for good open and click-through rates from your emails. Unengaged subscribers who don’t do anything? Realizing these subscribers are only hurting your deliverability reputation should make it easier to kick them off your list when the time comes.
But how do you decide the right time to give inactive subscribers the boot? A good portion of your list may be unengaged with your emails, but that doesn’t mean you have to let them go all at once. An email re-engagement series is an excellent way to reach out to unengaged subscribers one more time, inviting them to reaffirm their interest in your emails. A re-engagement campaign is usually two or three emails long and includes specific content directed at getting subscribers to take action.
If you want to get a feel for what a re-engagement email campaign might look like, check out the series our client True Citrus put together.
The Subject Line
The subject line is important in a re-engagement email. Not that it isn’t in every other email, but this time you’ve really got to dazzle, wow, draw-in, and otherwise motivate those disengaged subscribers to open your email. Remember, you want them to give you a “yea” or a “nay” so you don’t continue sending them re-engagement emails. That being said, it’s not uncommon for email marketers to make re-engagement email subject lines bolder, funnier, and spunkier than regular emails.
I pulled some examples of re-engagement email subject lines:
- Come back today and shipping is on us!
- We’ve missed you (Enjoy 20% off)
- [First name], we want you back/where ya been?
- Is This Goodbye?
- Don’t Hide Out. Come back to redeem your points!
- Come back and stay with us. (travel and hospitality)
- 5 Bucks says you miss us, too
- Let us prove our love
- It’s been a while
- It feels like we’re growing apart
- Last chance! Your subscription expires in # days.
Hopefully, you’re inspired by these subject lines in the creation of your own. It’s never a bad idea to experiment to see which ones work best, and subject line testing is easy, especially if you’re using the WhatCounts platform. Brainstorm subject lines, pick a few of your favorites, and test them against each other. Use the ones showing the best open metrics for the rest of your re-engagement campaign series.
When you’ve got the subject lines taken care of, start working on the content of the emails. Here are some musts for re-engagement email content:
- Don’t be shy; tell people exactly what you want them to do in the pre-header text.
- Get to the point quickly. This isn’t the time to sell your products or write your life story.
- Identify the email the subscriber is signed up for, and the benefits of that email.
- Use a large call to action, e.g. continue receiving emails, confirm you’re still with us.
- Ask people to stay friends with you by following your social media sites.
- If they don’t opt in by a certain date, let subscribers know they’ll be unsubscribed.
- Send subscribers to a preference site instead of an immediate opt out. This will give them the opportunity to opt down.
- Include a survey for the opt outs, asking subscribers why they don’t want your emails.
- Give the subscriber a reason to re-engage and confirm his or her subscription: Promote a sweepstakes, percent or dollar off, or a free gift.
- Make sure the design is optimized for mobile device viewing.
- Get creative! For example, check out this re-engagement email Urban Outfitters sent. The look, tone and content match the brand and its audience. This one from Piperlime also gets my vote.
Once you’ve got your re-engagement emails set up, it’s time to send them out. Automating to find unengaged subscribers and drip the campaigns to them means you don’t have to lift a finger. Well, you’ll have to do the final act of axing them from your list, but we’ll get to that soon enough.
Decide whom you’ll reach with this re-engagement campaign series. For example, in the above-mentioned campaign, True Citrus chose to send the first email in the series to subscribers who have been on its list for at least 240 days and haven’t engaged for the same time period. Depending on your industry and unique company goals, this number may be less or more.
Likewise, the next email in the series can be triggered to send to subscribers who received the first re-engagement email, but didn’t engage with it (or any emails) in the past 90 – or whatever number makes sense for you – days. Follow the same steps for sending a third email to subscribers if you so choose.
When the last email sends, decide how long you’re going to give subscribers to engage. After that time, unsubscribe people who haven’t taken any action from your emails.
If You Really Can’t Let Go…
It may be hard for you to let go of unengaged subscribers even after you’ve sent the re-engagement emails. For example, retailers may have subscribers who see emails, but don’t open them. Instead, they go right to the brick and mortar location to take advantage of the deal mentioned in the subject line. If you can identify with this situation, you can still get these subscribers to update their preferences. Do this by including some form of an email subscription update request at your brick and mortar locations.
Maybe your product lifecycle is longer, e.g. selling cars. You don’t want to unsubscribe people too quickly. Agreed: A re-engagement campaign looks different for different businesses. Use the same tactics for getting subscribers back, but simply space out your campaigns to a more appropriate time frame for your product lifecycle.
Before unsubscribing unengaged users, identify the people who’ve been most profitable for you and reach out to them with one more campaign. View past behaviors for these subscribers and create personalized content to send in the email to them. If they still don’t respond, sorry, it’s time to say goodbye to them, too.
Keeping your list full of engaged subscribers is essential to good deliverability. Don’t wait to put together your re-engagement campaign – start now and see better metrics on your email sends today. We can also help you put together a strategy specific to your company using our strategy module, which focuses on re-engaging inactive subscribers and winning back lapsed purchasers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.
For more on re-engagement campaigns, sign up for our free webinar: It’s Not Them, It’s You: Ignite Subscriber Relationships with Email.